Category: Opinion

The Survival of Wear OS Depends on a Pixel Watch

The rebranding exercise last week from Google on Android Wear was an important one, if nothing more than superficial.  Now known as Wear OS by Google, the flavor of Android designed to run on watches, the name change reflects many things that have been changing with the Android naming convention over the past few months.

But the problems for Wear OS are far deeper than a simple name change can fix.  Sure, Google can address the iPhone user market who, they report, is one out of every three Android Wear user today. The fact is, a premium Wear OS watch experience needs to happen and it needs to come from Google.  Just as they have done with phones and Chromebooks, a Google “Pixel Watch” would unleash all the potential of Wear OS to the masses.  But there are big obstacles in the way that have to be addressed.  If there is a company that can sort it out, it is Google.  The question is if they want to do it.

Developers, Please Update Your Release Notes (Talking to You Google)

This past weekend I experienced one of my pet peeves about the Google Play Store so you get to listen to me vent.  Google, you in particular need to pay attention to me on this one.

Developers, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, update your Release Notes.  I can’t tell you how many times I or another site has found something new in an update to an app and yet the release notes provided in the Play Store say absolutely nothing about it.  If you want people to know about that thing you added to your app, you may want to let people know about it?

This weekend however, pretty much took the cake for this month.  It was Google and Chrome for Android.  It literally made me utter harsh language and have a catharsis moment of writing this post.

Android Wear is Great – Right Up Until You Have to Use The App

A few weeks ago, I started wearing an Android Wear watch once again, the Ticwatch E.  I started wearing for the review of that watch but I quickly found that with the 2.x version of Wear, combined with solid hardware, that it was a great overall experience.  I’m a fan of this watch and I’m a fan of all that Android Wear, version 2.7 on my particular watch, has to offer me.

But as far as Wear as a platform has come, the app for Android is a horrible experience.  It may well be one of the most forgotten app that Google makes that is aimed at mainstream use by consumers.  It is a frustrating, half baked experience that Google needs to address if they have any hope of making the platform great.

Chrome OS Build 61 – Beautiful and Secure

Chrome OS has come a long way in 6 years that it has been around.  The platform has infinitely more features and functionality, has a robust ecosystem of extensions and now Android apps, and is no longer a “cheap” OS for “cheap” hardware.  It has grown up, a lot.

But if there is one area that it still has lagged when comparing it to the likes of MacOS or Windows 10, it has been in the User Interface.  Yes it has changed a bit, most notably with the introduction of a task bar in 2012, but fundamentally it has always been a browser-based platform with a clunky but functional UI.  But that changed in a big way this week with the released of Chrome OS build 61.

Build 61 brings the most dramatic changes to the User Interface to date.  It brings an all new app launcher, significantly improved support for Android apps and a much more polished lock screen.  These many not sound like big ticket items but these changes bring the platform as a whole more into the mainstream look of an Operating System and out of the “geeks only” look that the platform has had to this point.  It also points to the never ending work that the Chromium team within Google perform to not only keep it as a secure and reliable OS but also bringing features that users are expecting in a desktop or laptop platform.  With more improvements on the horizon, this new look UI will only improve over the course of 2018.

Opinion: Google, Please Update Your Release Notes on App Updates

Yesterday, Google Calendar had a nice update drop in the Play Store.  The problem is, if you only read the release notes, you would have had no idea that a great new feature in the app.  That feature, the ability to drag & drop appointments to new days and times, was not mentioned in the release notes.  At all.  In fact, the release notes are from some four months ago.

The problem is that users of apps on Android need those release notes to know what they are getting in the update.  Be it a new feature or even a little bit of detail around what was fixed if it is a maintenance release would go along way.  Instead, users are dependent on sites like and others to dive into the updates as soon as they drop or do APK tear downs to find out what’s new.  Believe me, I appreciate you coming and finding out what is new in a release but really, should it be such a guessing game?  No, I don’t think so.

Opinion – Chrome OS Could Kill The Android Tablet in 2017

As 2017 gets started, one thing has become abundantly clear to me:  The days of the Android tablet form factor are numbered.  Its not that the Android experience on tablets will kill them – which is pretty poor to be fair – but rather the flood of Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices that are set to hit the market this year.  2017 will be the year that Chrome OS takes off for good with a wide range of form factors expected to be release and the much anticipated support of Android apps on the platform in Chrome 56.  The latter is due within days and the former, with the likes of Samsung’s new Chromebooks, will set the stage for a transformative year.

The push for the tablet form factor came fundamentally from Apple.  With the launch of the iPad, it suddenly became a tool by which you could get more things done on a larger screen.  Add to that portability and a lower cost, generally, than a laptop and you set the stage for a form factor that seemingly many wanted.  But for all the might of Apple, the iPad has never really taken hold.  Samsung, HTC and Google themselves have had the same struggles.  They brought the conveniences of a mobile Operating System and the associated apps but equally, they brought limitations that users did not experience on laptops.  It was, as if, they were a stop-gap measure until a proper merger of a desktop OS and a mobile OS could take place.

That merger is happening now with Chrome OS and Android.

Android apps running in Chrome will be more than just a stop gap.  You will get the benefits of an app ecosystem along with the power and productivity of a desktop OS.  Is it perfect?  No but it is a far cry better than having two completely desparent solutions to meet your productivity and entertainment needs.

I suspect that my usage of my Nexus 9 Android tablet is similar to many of you.  I like the tablet but 90% of my use of it is for entertainment:  Games, movie watching and social networking.  Rarely do I use it for productivity, even with the solid Google productivity apps like Docs, Sheets and Slides.  The only time I really use it for productivity is when I’m on an airplane, in coach, crammed into a little seat with little room to pull out a 14″ Chromebook to work.  If I’m in business class or First class, the Chromebook is always the weapon of choice to get things done.  So the question becomes, if I had my entertainment on a slate or convertible Chrome OS-based device, would I need a tablet?  The answer, in my mind, is a resounding no.

Nextbit Robin – The Most Underrated Phone of 2016?

As 2016 starts to wind down, It is always interesting to go back and look at how things progressed throughout the year.  To be sure, there have been a huge number of phones launched this year from a wide range of manufactures.  One of the new kids on the block, Nextbit, launched their first phone in mid-2015 and started shipping it in February of this year.  Originally priced at $399 and having more than a few teething problems (mostly related to a really sluggish camera), the phone has slowly and steadily been updated, fixing issues and improving performance as time has gone by.  At the same time, the price kept dropping.  Mid-way through the year it hit $299 from Nextbit with Amazon dropping the price for a few weeks here-and-there to $199.  Now it is available for $169, a price which makes this solid performing phone a no-brainer.  Seriously, I would challenge readers to find an equally equipped phone for this price.

What I’m not going to do here is rehash my review of the Robin.  You can read that and get the specs and my initial thoughts.  But I will make the case for this phone being the unsung hero of the year based on its specs for the price, the update cycle that Nextbit has been keeping and the open and supported nature the company has taken with the Robin.  Let’s start with the specs.  It is powered by the Snapdragon 808 processor running at 2GHz and coupled with the Adreno 418 GPU.  It has 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM coupled with the processor which gives a nice, snappy feel to the Robin during use.  Storage wise you have 32GB available on the device along with 100GB in the Nextbit Smart Storage

The Display of the Robin is a 5.2″ renders at 1080 x 1920 Full HD resolution which gives you approximately 423 PPI.  That makes the flat screen of the phone easy on the eyes when viewing for a long period of time.  The display is protected by Gorilla glass 4.  Camera wise, the main camera is a 13MP unit with phase detection auto focus and a dual-tone flash.  On the front you have a 5MP camera that is wide angled to give you a good selfie image.

In the market today, there are a handful of phones that run the Snapdragon 808 processor.  Those phones are all substantially more than the Robin.

  • Blackberry Priv:  $399
  • LG V10:  $368
  • Nexus 5X:  $299
  • Moto X Pure:  $299
  • Lumia 959 (Windows 10):  $369

All of these phones have 32GB or less in storage so from a price point alone, even at $299, the Robin starts to make a lot of sense.

Microsoft – A Mobile Strategy Does Not Have To Include Phones

Microsoft and their mobile devices, Microsoft Lumia, were in the news again this week and not in a good way.  The company has all-but confirmed that they will be killing off the devices and brand by the end of 2016.  As a long time H/PC, PocketPC, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone users (I started this site back in 2004 writing about Handheld PCs and PocketPCs), it is a shame to see a company with the resources of Microsoft so utterly screw up their mobile strategy around devices.  There are a lot of reasons for this of course and I could spend a lot of digital ink on it.  But the bottom line is, from a device perspective, Microsoft made a long series of major missteps that has led to where we are today:  Virtually no Windows powered phones.  Sure there is the new HP Elite X3 but at the price point it has ($799), it will see very few and really, it’s aimed at the enterprise anyway.

But to suggest that Microsoft’s mobile strategy is dead because their phones are dead is a bit of a stretch and dare I say, false.  Their strategy is very much alive and well across both Android and iOS and proves that you don’t necessarily have to have phones in the mix.  Microsoft’s focus has been pretty clear for the last two years.  First, they want you using Microsoft services on whatever devices you want to use.  Second, they want you to have the apps to make you productive and give you near the same level of functionality as you have on the desktop.  These two things not only make up a mobile strategy but it makes a pretty solid one.

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